Latin Beat Columns - June-July 2012 Issue

By Nelson Rodríguez

Latin Beat Columns - Credit...Latin Beat Magazine

"Latin Beat Columns" Credit...Latin Beat Magazine"

As we reach the halfway mark of 2012, we are coming across some fine conceptual recordings released by both musical veterans and newcomers.

One veteran who gets better with time is Carlos Oliva (leader of Los Sobrinos del Juez) who impressed critics in recent years with the CD “I’m A Believer” by taking huge pop hits from the 1970s and adding Spanish-language endings (mostly penned by Omar Hernández and Milton Salcedo) to such distinctively creative versions. The Miami-based group’s CD/DVD combo titled “Y Seguimos Guarachando” contains arrangements by Omar Hernández, Camilo Valencia and Milton Salcedo on the standout tracks “El Pescao,” “Por Tí,” “Castígame,” “Pánfilo,” “Con El Bosillo Pelao” and “Take It Easy.”

One of today’s best young bands is La Excelencia, whose CD “Ecos del Barrio” serves to showcase mostly original lyrics that tell meaningful stories (something we have been missing for many years in the salsa scene), as expressed by the great vocal talents of Edwin Pérez. Just listen to “Pal Mundo Entero,” “María,” “Entre Espinas,” “Nueva York Sin Tí,” “Dale Otra Oportunidad,” “Anoche Soñé Contigo” and “Descarga La Excelencia.” The abovementioned CD was sent to this writer by Willie Otero’s Latinos Unidos Record Pool (LURP). Regarded as one of the oldest and most successful record pools in the world, LURP continues to provide DJs with great new releases of salsa, merengue, bachata, Latin jazz, reggeatón, vallenato, cumbia, etc.

The recent batch of recordings included new bachata releases by Prince Royce (Phase 2) and Lenny Santos (Aventurero), as well as vintage salsa reissues featuring Alfredo Linares, Orquesta Borinquen, Azuquita y su Melao, and La Protesta de Colombia. New recordings have been released by La Tropa Son (La Mañana Americana), Orlando Ortiz & Karibe Mambo Orchestra (At Full Swing), Orquesta Sinsaye de Venezuela (Traigo Una Rumba), La Sonora Sanjuanera de Puerto Rico (Pa’l Bailador Que Guapea), Jorge Alberto ‘El Gallito Del Son’ (A Bailar En Nueva York), Conjunto La Perla de Puerto Rico (El Conjunto Del Pueblo), Raza Latina de Colombia (Sabor y Sentimiento), Controversia/La Orquesta de Moda ( Así Es La Diferencia), Rosita Ulloa, Omaira Borras (Las Divas De La Salsa), Plenealo (Soy Yo), and one of my favorite bands…Rumberos Del Callejón (Construyendo).

A group of musical veterans, Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos de la Salsa, offer the conceptual CD “Viejos Pero Sabrosos,” whose original lyrics are delivered by vocalists Marcial Isturiz and José Mangual Jr. This CD features arrangements by Ricky González, Nelson ‘Gazú’ Jaime, Richie Viruet, Ray Martínez, Lucho Cueto, Ramón Sánchez and Edy Martínez. Irizarry is backed by Rubén Rodríguez, ‘Gazú’, Martínez, Elías Lopes, Edy Martínez, Reynaldo Jorge, Bobby Franceschini and Carlitos Soto.

Another band with a bright future is the one led by pianist Marlon Rosado. On the CD titled “Retro,” Marlon Rosado y La Riqueña pay tribute to Fania legends such as Ismael Miranda, Eddie Palmieri, Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz, Sonora Ponceña, Ray Barretto, Willie Colón and Cheo Feliciano, while highlighting a cast of distinguished guests ―Bobby Cruz, Papo Lucca, Tony Vega, Ismael Miranda, Sal Cuevas, Tito Puente Jr., Luigi Texidor, Kevin Ceballo, Marlon Fernández and Quique Domenech.

Vocalist Don Sonero’s debut, “La Verdadera Escena,” injects today’s salsa with a youthful tinge and refreshing approach. Hardcore salseros and DJs must listen to “Don Sonero Llegó,” “Salsa Pura y Nada Más,” “Sabor Clásico,” “Son Son Sonero” and “Yo Soy La Bomba (In A Minor)”.

Holland’s Masalsa’s offers the CD “Resurreción,” produced by Oscar Hernández and percussionist Soeshiel Sharma. This pleasantly surprising recording contains such hits as “Hipocresía,” “Rosa,” “Judas,” “Filosofonda,” “Resurreción,” “Hong Kong Criminal”, and the title track.

Led by composer Pedrito González La Negramenta is back with the CD “Pa’ Los Cuatro Vientos,” which demonstrates why this band is regarded as one of the top acts in Venezuela. Vocalists Wiwi Buznego, Yoryi Pacheco, Marcial Isturiz and Wilmer Cobos deliver outstanding performances throughout this CD. DJs will love the tunes “Vicente y Arcadio,” “En La Luna Es,” “Plegaria,” “Prende Pa’ Cali,” “Amor En Off,” “Pedal y Bomba,” and “Candela P’al Que Me Tire.”

Atabal’s new release (Soneros en la Plena) is a great concept album that features special guests Andy Montañez (our prayers are with him, wishing a speedy recovery from his recent accident), Tito Rojas, Herman Olivera, Víctor Manuelle, Luisito Carrión, Vico C, Jerry Medina, Wichy Camacho and Julio Voltio. It’s an awesome thing to see the plena genre alive and well, as preserved by bands like Atabal, Plenealo and Plena Libre.

One highly recommended plena CD is Gary Núñez & Plena Libre’s “Plena Al Salsero.” Although this recording contains some of their previous hits and a few covers, it also includes new material, properly presented by one of today’s best plena groups.

One of the best jazz bassists that emerged during the past decade is John Benítez, whose CD “Purpose” is comprised of both Latin jazz and straight-up jazz tracks. Most of these compositions were penned by Benítez. Pedro Martínez and Víctor Cruz handle the Antillean and Colombian percussion. Check out the tracks titled “Rumba,” “Yagrumo” and “Bomba Lírica.”

The renowned producer Bobby Marín has established the Mambo Music label, whose catalog includes vintage and contemporary recordings, such as the new CD of Charanga Pasión (led by flutist Connie Grossman and violinist Betsy Hill), featuring vocalist Deborah Resto on the tracks “I Will Survive” and “Coro Miyaré.” The label specializes on rare singles that were produced by Bobby himself. Many of them can be found on the CD “Mambo Music Presents Classic Singles.”

El Septeto Santiaguero (led by Aldén González Díaz) has a new recording, “Vamos Pa’ La Fiesta,” whose first single (“Lágrimas Negras”) features such guests as Rubén Blades, Cheo Feliciano, Jimmy Bosch, José Alberto (El Canario) and Edwin Colón Zayas.

Known as the composer for the Toronto-based salsa band Caché, Wilson Acevedo now presents his own project: Wilson Acevedo & Jazzmeetssalsa’s “En Trance”. The track titled “Gury’s Mambo” is dedicated one of the world’s top Latin radio hosts…Gury Gury. This album brings you the best elements found from the worlds of salsa and Latin jazz.